"Less straightforward" - Wayne Barnes responds to complaints about France's controversial last minute penalty against England - Ruck

“Less straightforward” – Wayne Barnes responds to complaints about France’s controversial last minute penalty against England

Wayne Barnes believes the challenge of assessing the legality of a tackle was highlighted recently by a focus group of former players during England’s defeat to France.

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Addressing the debates over decisions during the Six Nations, Barnes wrote in his column for The Telegraph: “During the Guinness Six Nations, World Rugby hosted a ‘Shape of the Game forum’ so that all of the game’s major stakeholders could consider the future of the sport.

“One of the presentations during the three-day conference in West London was given by Conrad Smith, the former All Black centre, who is now part of a head contact calibration group tasked with improving decision-making when dealing with dangerous tackles.

“That group consists of some of the most experienced and celebrated coaches and players across the globe. The New Zealand legend explained the difficulty in getting agreement, and explained that a two-thirds majority was only reached in 45 per cent of clips they had shared over the past year.”

On the controversial penalty, Barnes said: “The decision to penalise Ben Earl at the end of the France-England match for a ‘no-arms tackle’ will be another one of those decisions that splits opinions and listening to the post-match discussion between Jonny Wilkinson, Benjamin Kayser and Ugo Monye, who have 160 international caps between them, made me think back to Conrad’s presentation.


“Monye called it ‘a soft decision’ explaining that Earl ‘doesn’t wrap because he’s got Taofifenua, who is 23st, going through him’. Kayser says that though it is ‘harsh, it is shoulder first’.

“The law book does not talk about a ‘no-arms tackle’. It explains that a player must not knock down an opponent carrying the ball without attempting to grasp. In the 34th minute of the same match, Ellis Genge tried to stop Uini Antonio as he carried the ball in his own 22. Angus Gardner gave a penalty and everyone could see that, as Genge tackled the French giant with his right shoulder, his right arm was close to his body and he clearly was not attempting to grasp.

“The Earl tackle was less straightforward and as Wilkinson said, when he was given the casting vote in the ITV wrap up: “If you put it down to the letter of the law, maybe the arms aren’t there. It’s a really tricky situation; one that just went the other way today.”

He added: “All of this passionate debate is part of what keeps us glued to the Six Nations, and what gets us discussing the game in the pubs across the country. Sometimes those small margins go your way, sometimes they don’t. You win some, you lose some. That’s sport.”

Ben Youngs’ Six Nations Team of The Tournament: ]

You can listen to the full latest episode of the podcast by CLICKING HERE.

1. Andrew Porter (Ireland)

2. Dan Sheehan (Ireland)

3. Dan Cole (England)

4. George Martin (England)

5. Joe McCarthy (Ireland)

6. Michele Lamaro (Italy)

7. Tommy Reffell (Wales)

8. Ben Earl (England)

9. Jamison Gibson-Park (Ireland)

10. George Ford (England)

11. James Lowe (Ireland)

12. Bundee Aki (Ireland)

13. Juan Ignacio Brex (Italy)

14. Damien Penaud (France)

15. Monty Ioane (Italy)

“A liability” – Telegraph rank England’s five worst 2024 Six Nations players

Telegraph Sport conducted a thorough assessment of each England player’s performance during the Six Nations, with criticism aimed at several individuals.

One player was labeled a liability, while another is advised to come to terms with the idea that their peak playing days may be behind them.

5 players who underperformed:

#5. Alex Coles – 6/10

Coles is a member of the Premiership outfit Northampton Saints, a club he has been associated with since the age of 13. His journey with the Saints began when he joined their senior academy in the summer of 2017, eventually making his senior debut in November of the following year.

With versatility spanning across the second and back rows, Coles has represented his country from U16 level all the way through to U20, featuring prominently in the U20 Six Nations and the World Rugby U20 Championship.

His impressive performances earned him a call-up to the England senior Men’s squad ahead of the 2022 Autumn Nations Series, where he marked his debut in their narrow 30-29 defeat against Argentina.

They wrote: “A cumulative 15 minutes of action, but it is telling that England opted for no lock replacement in their final two matches.”

RUCK RATING: 6.25/10